Blood, Sweat, and Sawdust

Going against the grain

Tag: Winding sticks

Better Winding Sticks

I built my first pair of winding sticks a couple of years ago.  Back then, I worked primarily with hand tools.  Today, I prefer power tools.  However, I still need a good pair of winding sticks.  Recently, I discovered just how poor my first pair were.  That sent me on a path to build better winding sticks.

My old sticks suffer from poor visibility.  Consequently, I bored holes at the ends of one stick.  It turns out that the holes don’t quite line up.  Additionally, the sticks aren’t the same height.  All of this stems from the fact that I had limited tools and skills at the time when I built them.

Better Winding Sticks

So, I scoured the Internet for good ideas.  It turns out, there are quite a few.

  1. First, I picked up the idea to use quartersawn walnut, with maple inlay from Chris Schwarz.  This provides a lot of contrast for better visibility.
  2. Paul Sellers provided me with the idea to bore a hole through the center of each winding stick.  This allows you to easily center the winding stick on the board you’re checking.
  3. Finally, everyone seemed to use a beveled design.  I believe the benefits of this are two-fold.  First, it helps the winding sticks reflect more overhead light for better visibility.  Second, it increases stability by removing some of the weight at the top of each winding stick.

Next, I took a trip to the lumber yard.  It took some digging through the boards to find one that qualified as quartersawn.  In the end, I found what I was looking for.  I rough milled the board and let it sit for a few days to acclimate.  Then, I jointed the rough sticks and thicknessed them to 5/8-inch.  Next, I cut the bevel on the band-saw.  After cleaning up the bandsaw marks, I started work on the inlay pieces.  I cut these from some maple scraps I had lying around.  Then, I used the inlay pieces to mark their respective mortises.  I cut the mortises using a trim router, and cleaned them up using a chisel.  After gluing up the inlay pieces, I bored the holes at the drill-press.  Finally, I cleaned up the faces with a smooth plane and applied a couple of coats of tung oil.

I think the turned out well.  They’re much more accurate and easy to read than my old ones.  Additionally, the inlay turned out okay for my first try.  In conclusion, my attempt at making better winding sticks was a success.


Time to unwind

Beautiful furniture requires accurate joinery, and that accuracy requires square boards which are free of twist. Even small amounts of twist can wreak havoc with forming solid joints. To detect these minute amounts of warpage, a tool is needed. The tool most often employed is the winding stick. Winding sticks are nothing more than a pair of long straight sticks that are laid across each end of a board to amplify any existing twist to the eye.

I made mine out of hickory, because it is a very hard wood with straight grain. Each one is approximately 18 inches long, with a pair of holes on one board to make sighting any twist a bit easier. I also chamfered the tops of each board to remind me that I only need to maintain one side. I finished them with a couple of coats of tongue oil.